Russian hackers were likely behind a series of crippling cyberattacks against at least nine Swedish media outlets in 2016, according to a newly released U.S. State Department cable.
The partially classified cable was published by BuzzFeed and obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
Sent in October 2016 to U.S. ambassadors in Europe, the document outlined suspicions of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. It also warned that Russia was focusing “significant resources” on partner counties including Sweden and Finland.
In addition to the cyberattacks, BuzzFeed quotes the cable as saying that “Russian actors” were suspected of seeking to “infiltrate Sweden with distorted and false information about NATO in the Swedish press, at think tank events, and on social media.”
The cyberattacks took place in March 2016, at a time when Swedish authorities were debating whether to approve a cooperation treaty with NATO. The agreement was eventually approved in May 2016.
Like in other Western countries, pro-Kremlin disinformation has seen an upsurge in Sweden in recent years.
Last year, the Swedish Institute of International Affairs published a detailed study accusing Russia of waging a coordinated disinformation campaign to influence public opinion in the country.
Sweden’s Security Service (Säpo) has briefed all political parties on the issue and the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) conducts awareness-raising activities and trainings on hostile disinformation.
The MSB has also set up a special task force to protect the integrity of the upcoming national election in September.